1) Buy good shoes. You really should get yourself some good shoes – not the 3 year old ones in the back of the closet, or some you buy online because they are your favorite color. Invest the $100-ish bucks on real running shoes. A running store is a great place to get fitted (as opposed to trying to wing it in Famous Footwear) and in Maine, the gold standard is the Maine Running Company, but if you can’t get down there, Epic Sports is a good place, too, and I think Lamey-Wellehan can fit you as well.
2) Wear the right clothes. They don’t need to be fancy, but a wicking top (NOT COTTON) is a good thing to have. Cotton holds sweat, and if you are overweight and starting, it’s one of the things that would make me self-conscious about it. Plus, gross, you’re running in a wet shirt. I get most of my wicking clothes at Target or Kohl’s, and shirts are usually around $12-15. For pants, I started in some basic non-cotton long fitness pants. But, I have found that more fitted tights feel better, and Old Navy has some nice capri tights for under $25. I have gotten Under Armour on clearance on Amazon for winter running, too. Socks – again, not cotton. The socks I have are varied – I have some Smartwool PhD, Balega, and Darn Tough. They are all fine, I don’t have specific preference except that I like a higher ankle in cold weather and a lower one in hot weather. If you’re a lady, get a good bra. I use Moving Comfort and like it a lot, and prefer the kind with the hooks and back close that doesn’t require an over-the-head wrestling match. I run early, I don’t have time to fight with a bra at 5 am.
3) Follow a plan. Couch to 5k is a great plan to get started. It mixes walking and running, and is very doable. If you have a smartphone, there are apps specifically for the C25K plan, or you can use a general running app and plug in the workouts yourself. I started with a dedicated app, and then moved to using iSmoothRun (which I loooove as a running app.) If you don’t have a smartphone, but do have an ipod, there are podcasts that you can download that are music tracks with the cues for running and walking.
4) No one is watching you. They aren’t. Cars may pass you, but THEY PASS YOU. Same with other runners. C25K programs are so popular now, I don’t think anyone blinks if they see someone running, slow to a walk, or vice versa. And really, if you are considering running, when you encounter a runner on the road – especially a “nontraditional” runner, what do YOU do? Do you throw things at them or point and laugh, or do what I did and wonder “man, I wish I was strong enough to do that….”
5) Do what you can. Maybe the C25K workout is something you knock out of the park on the first pass, or maybe some weeks are harder than others. Maybe you don’t have enough time to do the whole thing – do a mile. Do 20 minutes. Do anything. Again, the only person that knows how long you’ve been out there or how far you’ve gone is probably YOU.
6) Pick a race and set your goal. I love racing because it gives me a goal to work towards. I’ve written about how I choose races, and now that I’ve done several, I can assure you that my formula works. In my section of the pack, it’s totally common to see people take walk breaks or be moving slowly. And the people who are FAST!? They can’t see you, they are ahead of you! As the shuttle driver to the B2B start line said “My advice: keep the Kenyans in front of you!” (And, okay, some of the elites ran the course backwards and passed me as I was still miles from the finish, but again, they PASSED me. Not ONCE has a “real runner” stopped, pointed, laughed, tripped me, scowled, or asked “why are YOU here?”)
7) Track your runs. I use my app (iSmoothRun) and I also now use a Garmin, the FR10 which is the cheapest and most basic model. I like using both, for a variety of reasons, but it’s nice to see my times in a line, and to see how my times improve.
8) Find inspiration. I am a big fan of blogs and social media, and there are some great running blogs out there, but one of my favorites is Katie at RunsforCookies.com. She began as a ‘nontraditonal’ runner, and if she ran by me and I didn’t know her story, I’d probably have some of that anxiety of “she’s judging me, I’m too slow, I’m not a ‘real runner'” stuff going on. So, when I see real runners out there, I try to flip it around – for all I know, their journey started like Katie’s did! Or the Penguin Chronicles, by John Bingham, who also wrote An Accidental Athlete and The Courage to Start.
9) Be inspiring. I share my running story because I am NOT a traditional runner. And I have had SO MANY PEOPLE tell me, either on twitter or facebook or my blog or by email or in person “Hey, I saw you’ve been doing C25k/running/doing races so I decided to try, thanks!” and I cannot even tell you how happy that makes me. I am not fast, and I doubt I ever will be. But I am steady in my pursuit of being a better me, and part of that is running, and if other people decide to try being better thems by giving running a try, that’s incredible.
10) Let yourself have fun. It can be SO MUCH FUN. Look at this photo! Seriously. Sometimes my runs feel sloggy and gross and blah, and sometimes I am smiling like an idiot, even when there’s no cameras around. (I still remember the beauty of running this particular day.) ESPECIALLY for an “accidental athlete.” I never did a single sport in high school, aside from being the manager of many teams so I could go on bus trips. I did drama and spelling bees. I wish I’d known then what I was missing, and I wish I’d started before my mid-30s. But I am SO GLAD I started in my mid-30s, and didn’t decide it was too late. Seriously, I have asthma, I smoked for a decade (and have been smoke free for over a decade) and am overweight (still overweight, less than when I started, though) and have had two kids and walk like a duck and have the coordination of a drunk baby, but I can do this and have FUN. If I can, you can.